When Should You Call a Facial Plastic Surgeon for Your Child?

Your son or daughter falls head on into the coffee table and ends up with gash under the eye or perhaps he falls flat on his face in the park, smashing his nose and slicing his lip open, or maybe she sustains a traumatic dog bite on her cheek after trying to take a ball away from the neighbor’s testy schnauzer.

Your first instinct is likely to panic (and who can blame you?), but knowing what to do and who to call can help make sure that this accident doesn’t result in a life-long scar. Although scarring may not be a problem on a knee, on the face it can result in a visible scar, disfigurement, and unfortunately, self-esteem issues.

The first step is to try and stop the bleeding and then get to your pediatrician, urgent care center or hospital emergency room where a healthcare professional can assess the nature and extent of the injury and its impact. If there is a wound that needs to be closed, many parents may ask for a facial plastic surgeon or plastic surgeon to perform the closure and reduce the chances of unfavorable scarring. This is an important consideration when it involves your child’s face.

Dr. Rizk Observations:

The good news is that facial wounds in children usually heal well and with very little scarring. If you need stitches, you should accept the doctor’s decision, as not doing so can result in a scar. For simple wounds, an emergency room doctor may be able to do a perfectly good job of closure, but since facial scars are highly visible, it may make sense to request a facial plastic surgeon.

If you are being treated at a major hospital in New York or elsewhere, there will likely be plastic surgeon on call. Some of my long-time NYC rhinoplasty or facial plastic surgery patients – who are also parents – reach out to see if I am available, or if I know someone who may be able to close the wound. The treating doctor may use local anesthesia to numb the area and/or other medications that minimize bleeding. Sutures (stitches) are sometimes the best choice, but there are cases where we may use tissue glues and staples. Facial plastic surgeons employ techniques that help minimize scars, but we cannot prevent them for forming. We are not magicians. Any incision heals by forming a scar, and everyone scars differently. At my plastic surgery practice in NYC, I always advise my patients to keep the wound out of the sun when it is healing and to use silicone sheeting or other products to reduce scarring. It’s also a good idea to have a game plan for when the sutures are coming out because leaving them in for too long can also result in an ugly scar.

While I truly hope no parent needs this advice, we all know that kids can and do get hurt – usually at the most inconvenient times. Being prepared is the best way to mimimize the consequences.